LONDON — Labour Party membership in Britain is expected to drop to its lowest level since its peak under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership with thousands feeling disappointed with how the party has handled Brexit.
The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) said on Tuesday that 483,000 members are currently up to date with payments The Guardian reports.
Labour had around 554,000 members last July. That number had fallen to 528,000 members as of December 2016 but new data shows that approximately 40,000 have failed to make the most recent payment at the time of writing.
The NEC cannot say with certainty whether these members were mainly supporters of Corbyn who signed up to back him in the September leadership contest or instead members who feel disillusioned with the party’s current direction.
However, a Labour source told the Guardian that many of those who disclosed their reasoning for quitting the party cited Corbyn’s decision to whip Labour MPs in favour of voting for the Article 50 bill.
Labour campaigned for Remain in the run-up to the June referendum and polling data indicates that most 2015 Labour supporters voted for Britain to stay in the EU, but Corbyn was keen not to be seen as subverting the “will of the people” by frustrating the passage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) bill.
His decision to whip Labour MPs in favour of backing the Brexit bill led to multiple shadow frontbench resignations, including former shadow business secretary Clive Lewis and Jeff Smith, Thangam Debbonaire, and Vicky Foxcroft, who defied the whip despite being in charge of enforcing it.
Over 5,000 Labour members signed a letter in February calling on Corbyn to reverse the party’s position and block Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc.
Labour’s membership still remains the biggest of any British political party by a comfortable margin.
The most recent data said that the ruling Conservative Party has just short of 150,000 members while Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP has around 120,000. The Liberal Democrats’ membership is at its highest in over two decades at 82,000 with thousands of Remain voters joining after the Brexit vote — but remains a long way off Labour.
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